With inclement weather in the early part of the last week having put paid to Navan’s aspirations of racing on Sunday, action was thin enough on the ground. But, as ever, where meetings did go ahead, there were plenty of Meath successes.
Since its reopening some years ago, Meath trainers and jockeys have enjoyed bountiful success at the all weather track in Dundalk. Stamullen based handler Tom McCourt was back in the winners’ circle at the Louth venue on Friday when his Bangalore Diamond (8/1) took the handicap for horses rated 47-65 with former joint champion apprentice Ben Curtis in the plate.
Horses have been known to win repeatedly on the sand surface and it was a case of another repeat scorer when the locally owned Steps To Freedom went in again for trainer Jessica Harrington with Shane Foley up having been sent off evens favourite. Rathbeggan trainer Eddie Lynam’s Akasaka was well backed in the same contest (13/8) but finished five and a half lengths back in third in the trainer’s own silks.
Navan’s card being off restricted National Hunt action, but Ashbourne rider Andrew Lynch was amongst the winners on Thursday at Thurles with partnering the Tim Doyle trained veteran Jolily to victory in the in the three mile handicap chase at odds of 9/2.
There was further local success at Gowran Park on Saturday with Ratoath’s Dermot McLoughlin in the picture when he sent out Vics Canvas to score under Conor Maxwell. The 10yo Old Vic gelding – who is out of a mare called Oilpainting, hence the name – is owned by the Bodeen Bandits Partnership which includes At The Races presenter Gary O’Brien.
Having shown decent form behind Willie Mullins’ progressive handicapper Tennis Cap, the winner was sent off the 4/1 joint favourite and afterwards the winning trainer said: “When he’s right he’s very good, but the whole job is trying to keep him right. Sometimes it’s hard to get him to eat a bit”. Well he certainly earned his grub at the weekend!
Across the water, Drumree native Barry Geraghty recorded a double at Sandown on Friday thanks to the short priced pair of Utoppie Des Bordes and Heronry, both trained by Nicky Henderson. Elsewhere, Kilmessan man Jason Maguire won the first heat on Ascot’s card on Saturday on board the Donald McCain trained Up And Go while at Haydock Paul Carberry was unable to repeat his Welsh Grand National heroics aboard the Michael Scudamore trained Monbeg Dude in the Grand National Trial.
The 8yo Witness Box gelding – whose owners include several English rugby internationals including Mike Tyndall – was unable to defy an 11lb hike in the weights received for Carberry’s heroics at Chepstow in January.
Off the track, the big story of the week was the allotment of weights for the Grand National at the Liverpool track. Many Irish hopes will rest with last year’s third, the Ted Walsh trained Seabass (11st 2lbs) while local interest is led by last year’s Irish National winner, the Tom Gibney trained Lion Na Bearnai who has been allotted 10-9 while Noel Meade has both Pandorama (11-1) and Cross Appeal (9-10) entered and Gordon Elliott has possibilities in Roi Du Mee (11-1), Jessies Dream (10-5), Chicago Grey (10-3), Tarquinnius (9-12), and Backstage (9-8).